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Lunch at the Country Store: Reminiscences from my friend Hollis Hobbs

Have you ever pulled off a country road, stopped by a little country store for lunch and had the person behind the counter make you a sandwich? There’s something about having the meat sliced fresh right in front of you, a little fresh lettuce and tomato, a little mayo…

While they work on your sandwich, you can go get yourself a bottle of pop out of the cooler. You might even grab a little bag of “tater” chips while you’re at it. They’ll slice the ham or bologna as thick or as thin as you want. (Personally I like the bologna best.)

Sometimes, the store will have a couple of tables to sit at, sometimes a counter. After you sit down and start your lunch is when the fun begins. This is a great place to do some serious people watching. I love the kind of folks that walk into little country stores. They are real people. Depending on the time of day and the time of year, you’ll see a lot of farmers, folks going fishin’, workers taking a break and moms trying to get in and out without their kids raiding the candy aisle.

If you are lucky, you’ll get to share the counter with a couple of old-timers who will tell stories about the good ole’ days. Stories about the biggest fish ever caught out of the local lake or maybe about the big tornado, or the real bad hurricane we had way back when. I always like hearing stories about how much things have changed since these ole’ fellows remember. I’m starting to notice some things myself!

The trick is to slow down enough to enjoy the simple, honest pleasure of an experience that our parents and grandparents enjoyed before us…before it too is gone. Just sitting enjoying a sandwich, a bottle of pop and the company of your neighbors.

Even corporate America understands about the longing for the good ole’ days. What do you think all those Cracker Barrel restaurants are modeled after? Why is it that the Andy Griffith Show is still popular after all these years? The answer to these questions is the same answer as why I like to eat a sandwich every now and then at the local country store. It takes us back home.

Now I’m sure that some of the younger ones out there are thinking that these things sound a little mundane to be of any fun. They would rather roam the shopping malls, visit the amusement parks and munch popcorn at the new multiplex theater. Sure, those things can be fun.

But I’m starting to believe that my generation might be the last to enjoy listening to a baseball game on the radio, on the front porch. This might be the last generation to actually carry a pocketknife in your pocket.

So before it slips away, find yourself a little mom and pop store off the beaten path with a sandwich counter. Pick out which big ham or big roll of bologna you want your slice from and ask if the tomatoes are fresh from the garden. You’ll need a little glass bottle of coke (since they don’t make 12 oz. bottles of R.C. cola anymore), a bag of chips and better get a moon-pie for something sweet later.

The good Lord only gives us so much time down here. This is a good way to spend some of it.

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